blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
As you might know, Bob, I'm a wellness educator/speaker. Last year, I put out a book on finding quality supplements, and was pleased to see it bumped back up into the top 50 ebooks on vitamins and supplements today!

Sales had dropped off -- understandably, since I've done no pushing of it -- but it has recently been boosted by its inclusion in Kindle Unlimited. Yay!

Also, I've received enough feedback that I'll be putting together an edition specifically for medical professionals who want to help their patients make the best decisions about incorporating supplements of trusted quality (rather than the cheapest crap on the shelf).

I'm also shooting to have an Indiegogo campaign ready to go before the end of this month. It'll be another wellness book -- this one based on natural interventions for brain health and behavior, which is one of the two most successful workshops I offer.

In the meantime, if you're interested, check out Choose Well: Your Guide To Finding Quality Supplements! It's free if you're a Kindle Unlimited member, or during the 30-day free trial membership.


blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
If you’re in a hurry, here’s your takeaway: Aside from the fact winter is too cold in many places for exposed skin, winter sunlight north of the equator is too low in the sky to trigger the body to produce its own Vitamin D. Repeatedly, research has shown that steady intake of Vitamin D3 –NOT sporadic mega-doses! — makes folks less susceptible to seasonal illnesses, helps curb “the winter blues,” and reduces the incidence of many cancers.</>

More here.


Last year, I got cocky, and was really lax about my Vitamin D3 supplements. I earned the worst cold I'd had in ages. I don't plan on repeating that!
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Poor short term memory. Apathy and irritability. Weakness and trouble sleeping. Restlessness and fatigue. Depression.

All of the above are symptoms commonly treated with prescription drugs—usually antidepressants, sleep aids, or a combination of them—and those prescriptions all carry well-known side effects that can impair daily living. But those symptoms might also point to a problem that’s much easier to address, and the solutions don’t cause potentially addictive and life-threatening problems: low levels of B vitamins.

Alas, few patients get a recommendation for, let alone information about, these essential nutrients.

The body requires B vitamins to turn food into energy, maintain the nervous system, support the heart and other muscles, and sustain healthy immune system function. Each B vitamin performs numerous functions. Without good levels of Thiamine (B1), the body doesn’t convert the carbohydrates of food into usable energy, and doesn’t deal well with stress. When Niacin (B3) is low, the nervous, circulatory, and digestive system suffers. Deficiencies of B6 reduce the body’s ability to produce serotonin, leading to depression, and melatonin, leading to poor sleep regulation. Low levels of B12 leads to fatigue, numbness in the fingers and toes, hair loss, weakness, and depression.

If you want to read more, check out the rest of the post at Well4Real.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
It is now a real ebook!

I'm playing with KDP Select on this one. For ninety days, the ebook will be available exclusively through Amazon. If you're an Amazon Prime member, you can borrow it for free during that time.

The link and the blurb are at Wellness for Real Life.

I'm also doing a rolling launch to see if I can attract numbers enough to know where my views and links come from.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

If there's one thing feeling sorry for myself is good for, it's for spurring me into action.  I hate feeling down (which I'm sure Pastor Bob would relate back to the fact I "don't do process" well).  So I dove into the final edits, checking of references and source materials, and basic formatting of my first wellness book.

It still needs so fixing and some polish, but it's close enough now I feel confident putting the final pieces in motion.



I'm going to do this one in ebook and print, and use the print version as my learning experience through CreateSpace. If I find the process workable, then I'll have gained a new skill. If I find it unworkable, I'll have gained the knowledge that I'd better pay someone else to do that task.

Here's the first draft of the blurb/back cover copy:

You decided to take a multivitamin. Your physician told you to take fish oil. You heard about an herbal combination that sounds like a good match for your wellness challenges.

But how do you know which multivitamin contains nutrients at the right proportions? What does the label reveal about the quality of your fish oil capsules? Which company can be trusted to provide pure and effective herbs?

The FDA reports that 70% of supplement manufacturers failed to meet basic manufacturing standards in 2010 and 2011. Independent testing found the ingredients in 40% of multivitamins, 30% of vitamin B supplements, and a whopping 63% of milk thistle supplements failed to match the label claims.

Quality matters.

Don't trust your wellness to advertising campaigns, product placements, and unreliable advice. Don't let chance make your decisions.

Learn to evaluate labels, investigate the company, and take charge of your wellness. You owe it to yourself to Choose Well.

For the cover and the preview, go here.

I am so relieved to finally reach this stage.

The past few months have been a repeat lesson in "Sometimes life goes sideways." You'd think I'd be adept at the dance by now. Someday, I swear, I'll be really good at the Cha-Cha Slide of life.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Today the 30-day blog challenge is to describe a typical day from my life.

I do not have typical days.

The best and the worst thing about being self-employed in three different fields--karate, wellness, writing--while also homeschooling a teenager is that no two consecutive days will be alike. Toss in a sister who works as a flight attendant while parenting my little nephews, parents who love to spend time with extended family, and two crazy-sweet dogs, and it is guaranteed days will be interesting in the ancient proverb sense.

Let's take today, for instance.

Up at eight in the morn (because I suck at early rising) to get laundry rolling and hoe the garden before it gets to muggy. By nine, the garden has been weeded, laundry is well underway, breakfast has been eaten by human and canine residents, and I've settled in to answer wellness emails while Dev works through his assignments in algebra and economics. We talk about Doctor Who somewhere in there. At a few minutes after eleven, Dev and I head out the door, with Dev driving. (We're trying to figure out how to get the time for his driving test in before the end of the month.)

Dev sees his econ/algebra teacher for two hours. In that time, I run to the printing shop to pick up karate-related stuff, then see a karate student at his own factory to provide a private lesson on kata and kicks. We finish ten minutes late, which means I barely make it back to the teacher's office in time. But the teacher is also running late, so all's good. I return phone calls while I wait: a client looking for info on digestive enzymes, the mechanic trying to schedule what might be an all-day job for my car, someone seeking information on karate classes.

By the time we return home, it's a little after two. The dogs dance on their back legs as if we've been gone forever and threatened to never return. Fortunately, the Lab didn't find any unattended food items to devour, and the Bull-Boxer-Rotty didn't tear up anything in his crate, so their greetings were well-received. We indulge in many minutes of playing with the dogs because it makes the entire day better for all involved.

Then came the midday ninety minutes with Dev, when we make something quick and easy for lunch before sitting down to watch one of the nighttime shows we record to watch together. Today was the most recent episode of Falling Skies. I ate a Sloppy Joe and salad. Dev had the Moo Shu left over from last night and a banana.

After the show, we chatted for a bit before Dev had to start his government assignment and I had to be out the door. I reached the dojo just five minutes ahead of both my instructor and my sparring partner. Fifteen minutes of kata work and forty-five minutes of sparring followed. Less than five minutes after the end of practice, I bowed beginning students on the mat for the first class of the evening. Four hours later, around nine, I bowed my last students off the mat. In between, I taught some students a new kata, others a new throw, then worked as both teacher and uki for an hour of multiple-attacker self-defense.

Upon arriving home, a shower--quick and cold--was the second order of business. The first was to hug Dev. Since Dev is working on a Minecraft something or other video and chatting with his international friends, I am left to my own devices: more answering of email, petting the crazy sweet dogs, and writing this post. By eleven, I'll be settled enough to get some fiction in before my eyes begin to cross. By midnight, I'll curl up in bed with my yet-nameless Kindle, and read until I fall asleep somewhere around one in the morn.

And that's about as typical as it gets around here. Tomorrow I'll teach karate again in the evening, and Dev and I will still spend our midday time together, but everything else will be different.

That midday time is most precious to me. Because Dev and I often work evenings, we can't have dinner together very often. Instead, lunch is our time.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Just a general round-up:

1.  Dev and I are both so very relieved and happy to "take back" our homeschooling plans.  Schooling through Indiana University seemed like a good idea, and probably would have been great about five years ago.  Alas, their class work and degree requirements shifted toward "Common Core" at the same time the university cut its staff.  We were left with extremely limited class options (no more ability to take dual credit courses, no more flexibility for degree completion, a mere handful of electives) while paying way too much for what had become, essentially, lessons I had to mostly teach anyway.  Besides, most of the classes were simply classroom-based methods jammed onto the internet.  Online classes must be structured differently to be effective!

After a great deal of research--and confiming of said research with outside sources--I decided to quit fretting over "accredidation" and focus on, y'know, the learning.  An increasing number of colleges and universities are standardizing the process of evaluating homeschooled students for admissions, and we have guidelines now on how to prepare and present a homeschool transcript and portfolio.  We already have our reading lists, textbooks on every subject but biology and chemistry, an excellent math tutor who can't wait to see how far Dev can go, free courses available online through awesome colleges and universities, and a variety of community professionals who have agreed to show Dev different parts of their career and business.  And in August, we begin the homeschool version of Rosetta Stone's Italian.

2. Dev is heading to aviation ground school for high schoolers this summer.  My father has taught at this program for years, and Dev would have attended last were it not for a conflict with karate camp.  (Last year was his tenth year ata karate camp, and he wasn't about to miss that!).  Dev is thrilled, and so am I.  For five whole days, I will have nothing to worry about except my own appointments and classes.  Woohoo!

3.  I'm still coming around, mentally, from the loss of Patricia.  Just a few months ago, when it seemed the cancer had been fought back yet again, she and I were discussing moving in together again in about a year and a half.  I suppose both of us should have known better than to hope for such time, but neither one of mentioned a second thought.  Maybe we both simply needed to believe it.

4.  Related to all of the above, everything related to writing is taking far longer than it should.  It isn't a matter of inspiration or willingness.  It is time.  Effing time.  One of the things I'm doing to address that is cutting my garden size in half.  This is not the year I can spend oodles of time out there during the growing season, or many hours processing the bounty of a large garden at harvest time.

5.  Should the universie be willing and Dev be on his game, he will have his driver's license sometime in the next thirty days.  We'll do the road test likely in the last week of May, and the written test the second week of June.  Dev wants more car than he can afford right now, so we'll likely share a vehicle for awhile.  This won't be an issue over the summer--when he plans to stack up a bunch of hours--though I can't see us going much beyond November without a second vehicle.

6. And the dojo? Still humming along. I'm averaging between five and six new students a month, though that will likely drop to one or two over summer months. We're now gearing up for summer camp, less than two months away. Part of me does wish I could attend as a mere student again. Since I'm running the dojo, running Dev's schooling, running my own publishing, and running my new (in development) wellness project, I'm getting tired of being in charge of something all the time!
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
For years and years I've been telling folks cereal isn't the best breakfast food, but my voice is nothing compared to the relentless marketing for "whole grains"  and "low fat" supported by large corporations and federal funding.  But every now and then, a little research slips out.  This study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, discusses the positive impact of a high-protein breakfast on eating habits, hormonal balance, and hunger.

The levels researchers deemed "normal protein" and "high protein" were, in my opinion, both high--13g and 35g respectively.  13g would be two servings of standard cereal AND a a half-cup of milk.  35g would be, like, five eggs.  That sounds like a great deal of food, yes?  Alas, we've lost sight of the fact breakfast should be a large meal.  But when preliminary medical thought connected health problems with fats, breakfast was one of the first places we made fat and calorie cuts.  We abandoned proteins because they were linked with fats, and kept the carbohydrates, the starches, the sugars.  What followed was an explosion in weight issues, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, mood disorders, cognitive decline, and more.

I suspect it'll be another ten to fifteen years before the overall thinking changes, primarily because school curriculum includes lessons and testing on the USDA-created eating plans.  Anyone educated between "the four food groups" phase and today will operate under the assumption that fats are bad, grains are good, and low calorie foods the ultimate goal.

In the meantime, we have a generation of children being raised on foods with nutritional labels that look like this:
Read more... )
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Over at Wellness for Real Life, my take on Health Care's Trick Coin, an article I saw today via a link from [livejournal.com profile] jaylake
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
In anticipation of this spring's launch of wellness titles, as well as my pursuit of more workshop and seminar gigs, I've launched Wellness for Real Life and a wellness Twitter account. 

Over the next couple days, I'll be posting a combination of new material and wellness posts that already appeared on LJ.  My goal for today is to finish at least a bare-bones page for the workshops/seminars.

If anyone has ideas or questions for future wellness posts, please let me know!
blairmacg: (Chant)
To date, I can claim about 40 reported sales--which is about 30 more than I expected.  Those 30 sales are in all likelihood due to the wonderful review [livejournal.com profile] sartoris gave the novel at BookView Cafe and Goodreads, and the support of my VPXV classmates.  (Where would I be without you guys? :)  The majority of sales came through Amazon, though it also sold through Apple, Kobo, BN and iTunes.  Readers made their purchases in the U.S., Canada, UK and India.  This pleases me.

I don't expect much more in the way of sales until two things happen.  First, I must have more material published.  Second, strangers must like the book enough to review it.  The first I can control, and the second I cannot.  That's why my expectations were, and continue to be, low at this time.  Late summer is my target timeframe for having more fiction available, and thus the time during which I'll seek out non-annoying marketing options.  I did put some feelers out for one option, and should hear back in a couple to three weeks on it. 

Late next week, I'll be back on the fiction-writing wagon.  This weekend, I'm planning to finish the first draft of a short wellness text on how to find quality supplements when the market is saturated with substandard products, artificial ingredients, and contaminated materials.  Then I must make forward progress on the stress book as well because I now have an actual deadline: I'm teaching a workshop on the topic, and participants want the book, too!

blairmacg: (Default)
Here's a fun article:

How the Mid-Victorians Worked, Ate and Died

Analysis of the mid-Victorian period in the U.K. reveals that life expectancy at age 5 was as good or better than exists today, and the incidence of degenerative disease was 10% of ours.

That's a pretty bold statement, yes?

It's a very interesting analysis that draws from a wide variety of data sources.

The basics: A diet high in non-processed foods, supported by new agricultural innovations that hadn't yet slipped into industrialization, combined with a high level of physical activity/challenge resulted in a life expectancy equal to today's--and arguably of better physical quality in later years.  Infection caused most deaths, particularly in the young years, before immunity would have a chance to strengthen from exposure to daily pathogens.  Infection during childbirth also resulted in a woman's life expectancy being slightly lower than a man's during the era.  (Handwashing was an incredible innovation.)

A couple points related to the article:

Canadian research found the seven minutes of vigorous exercise daily was the minimum needed for a child to remain healthy.  They also found most children didn't get that seven minutes a day.  Not even a freaking seven minutes?  Really??

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology published new research again correlating a high incidence of peanut allergy among the affluent.  Many allergists consider it another arrow pointing to over-sanitation as the trigger for the national spike in autoimmune disorders.

A recent article in New Yorker gives a decent overview of current and ongoing research regarding how important bacteria is to our health and longevity, and how our quest to kill bacteria may be a primary cause of our current rise in degenerative disease and autoimmune disorders.  For example: the presence of H. pylori bacteria, vigorously attacked by antibiotics in an effort to avoid ulcers, is actually protection against allergies and asthma.  Folks without the bacteria are prone to allergy-induced asthma.

Lastly, American Journal of Medicine has published research indicating that women who eat a high amount of antioxidant-rich foods have a far greater chance of avoiding a heart attack than women who eat small amounts.  The correlation between antioxidant intake and health was independent of weight/BMI and exercise frequency.  The article is titled, "Rethinking the Way We Eat."

Because I'm in a touchy mood tonight, I'll go ahead and point out how often I've been called an ignorant, uneducated, and a quack for saying nutrition has a profound impact on disease, and degenerative diseases don't need to be accepted as "normal."
blairmacg: (Default)
From the Washington Post comes yet another article about the negative aspects of lead, and the positive results of its removal.

The study on crime, in particular, (linked within the article), is one I've been sharing with clients and friends for years--especially those who don't understand how what the body takes in affects what the brain will do.  (On the other hand, I've had many folks dismiss the study because they simply can't believe crime rates have declined so much in recent decades.)

Also of importance is the consistent findings that many behavioral issues for which we medicate children can be correlated with higher levels of lead in the system.  Oddly enough, I've yet to hear of a child who was tested for lead exposure prior to being given medications to control behavior.  (Kinda like I've yet to hear of a person tested for proper adrenal function before being given thyroid medications.)

Anyway.

More and more I'm convinced education reform--in the form of developing new teaching methods, tests, and information delivery systems--is pretty much a waste of resources until we decide to cease actively harming a child's nervous system while simultaneously depriving the child of the nutrients needed to counter that harm.

And I admit to being a little frustrated by knowing it will never change because the current system isn't designed for prevention and is, in some ways, actively hostile toward prevention and cause-correction.
blairmacg: (Default)

Today was a wellness appointment day, when I see seven clients in seven hours.  Over the summer, I only schedule two such days per month, but in the winter, it can be four or five days.  More than that, and I start referring clients to other people.  I just can't handle that intensity more often--the reason I set aside all hope of ever being a fulltime counselor.

That hour with the client is spent discussing the details of what they eat, what they drink, what they take, what they do, what they think, and what they feel.  New clients, accustomed to delivering their health complaint in 90 seconds or less, can't imagine why we need a full hour.  But I'm not there to connect Problem A with Solution B.  The goal is to educate the client about why diet and lifestyle choices impact how--and how well--life is lived.  We go through everything they're taking, prescription and otherwise, and make a list of things to discuss with their physician.  We discuss research versus hype, assumptions versus reality, and why the latest obscure herb they heard about on Dr. Oz might not be worth their time to hunt down.

But the most important segment of the appointment is the Sustainability Assessment--or, as I tell clients, the process by which we find strategies to sidestep their excuses.  ;-)  And I do mean strategies.  Not guilt trips, not intellectual reasons, not shaming statements.  Instead, we discuss, step by step, how changes can be made.

Example: A client was trying desperately to get her sugars under control, but was struggling with cravings and habits that crept in every time she tried to change what she ate.  She'd do well all day then, on her way home, would stop at the corner store to pick up the local newspaper.  And a root beer and a candy bar.  She absolutely couldn't walk out without those treats.  Her dietician had told her all about the healthy choices she could make instead--low-salt nuts, a high fiber fruit, and so forth--but the client would still end up with the other treats in addition to the healthy ones!

So I suggested she have the paper delivered to her home.

That one action--the choice to focus on behavior rather than the food that went with the behavior--opened the door for her to examine other choices.  It gave her a different perspective, a renewed sense of control over her habits.

Usually I'm completely wiped at the end of the day, often because a couple of the appointments are folks who don't want to be there, who were talked into it by a friend or family member, or are there to engage in a debate about allopathic versus alternative medicine.  (I don't debate. I just start printing off research for them.)  But today was a good day--some new clients who couldn't wait to use their new knowledge, a returning client ready to take the next step, and two clients doing so well I won't need to see them again unless something goes sideways. 

I left the office late, but invigorated.  Folks had made changes to their lives that actually did change their life.  Other folks had new hope for situations they'd been told they'd just have to live with.  And one woman walked out knowing the changes she'd made had saved her marriage.

Every time I think I just can't spend another day giving individual appointments, the universe sends me a day like today.

To top it off, I drove past the new dojo on the way home and admired the awesome signs that were installed today.

blairmacg: (Default)

 

Between prepping the new dojo for its grand opening next week, and keeping up with all of life's other responsibilities, I've been working on Living With Bears--the wellness book focusing on stress and nutrition.  (I mention the standard stress advice in the book, but it instead focuses on the nutritional aspects that make that other stress advice feasible rather than unattainable.)

One of the nutrients I discuss is the mineral magnesium--a mineral the body uses for a multitude of processes that make a healthy life possible.  Magnesium levels influence cardiac health, muscular health, bone health, and mood.  I thought I'd share a bit of what I'm putting in the book.

The USDA estimates nearly 70% of Americans don't get enough magnesium from their diet.  It's increasingly hard to do.  Research in the US and the UK show a decline in the magnesium levels in foods considered "high" in the mineral.  Much of the decline is attributed to industrial farming methods.  Additional declines are attributed to refining processes, which separate the magnesium-rich portions of a plant from the "preferred" elements.

Increasing magnesium intake has been shown to have the following benefits.  Usually, magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide work much better than magnesium sulfate:

  • Reduction of frequency and severity of migraines, especially in women who have migraines connected with their monthly cycles.
  • Coincidentally, adequate magnesium intake also decreases the severity of PMS symptoms.
  • Reduction of health palpitations and blood pressure.  Excessive amounts of magnesium may cause arrhythmia, but proper amounts support and strengthen cardiac health.
  • Reduction of sleep disturbances, especially difficulties falling asleep and frequent awakenings.  I've worked with a bunch of clients who have found relief from sleeplessness by taking a magnesium-calcium supplement before bedtime.
  • Reduction of osteoporosis and osteopenia.  Magnesium is necessary for the body to use calcium and other bone-building minerals properly.
  • Reduction of depression, especially among people who aren't getting adequate relief from prescription anti-depressants, because it raises serotonin levels.  In fact, some research shows magnesium is as effective as tricyclic antidepressants among people who also have diabetes.
  • Reduction of muscles cramps and aches.  Magnesium is often used in the prevention of certain seizures, and in the prevention of irregular heartbeat.  (The heart is a muscle, after all!)
  • Reduction of insulin resistance.  While there is disagreement in the research as to how much magnesium impacts blood sugar levels, there isn't a bit of research that indicates it reduces insulin responses.
  • Reduction of chronic constipation.  Magnesium draws water into the intestinal system and soothes the intestinal muscles.

If anyone needs the sources for the above, for their own information or to open discussions with one's doctor, let me know and I'll be happy to provide them.

What amazes me is the number of conditions that are common doctor-visit complaints compared to the number of times a mineral supplement is recommended in place of a prescription.  Much of this is due to the structure of the US medical system, which will permit insurance payments for expensive drugs but restricts payment for key nutrients.  Even Health Savings Accounts are now limited in their use to those supplements prescribed by a physician.  If your doctor doesn't believe in supplementing key nutrients as part of preventative medicine, you're stuck with an out-of-pocket expense.  Fortunately, magnesium is pretty cheap.  (Mine costs me about six bucks a month.)

Usually, folks who take magnesium are advised to take B6 as well (as part of a multivitamin) since B6 impacts how well the body can use magnesium.

The side effects of too much magnesium include stomach cramps, headache, nausea, low blood pressure and heart rate, and confusion.  You have to work really, really hard to ingest excessive magnesium intake from food.  In supplements, laxative effects are found at about 350 mg daily (I take 400 mg daily). Magnesium can alter the absorption and metabolizing of certain drugs, so as always it's important to do a little research before taking anything.

As always, I must state I provide the above accurate information for educational purposes only, and that you should discuss any health decisions with your physician.

 

blairmacg: (Default)
The latest silliness in research and reporting: Organic foods aren't any better for you than industrially-grown foods.

That's the big headline most folks will use to guide their decisions.

In truth, this study is an analysis of numerous other studies--a study of studies--and admits some of its own shortcomings while ignoring others.  Some of those shortcomings will be, of course, buried in the reporting. And I doubt any reporter reading the press release will recognize the others.

Shortcoming the first is its treatment of nutrient-content studies.  That's always been a piece of silliness regarding organic research, and leads me to wonder why so many researchers of organics seem disconnected from basic agricultural knowledge.  To research nutrient content, you must take into account five things: soil quality, water availability, ripeness at time of harvest, length of time between harvest and testing, and variety grown.  Soil quality and water availability determine, among other things, the food's mineral content.  Ripeness and lag time determine vitamin and antioxidant levels. And this is just one example of how different varieties have different nutritional values.

Shortcoming the second is the length of time the study's studies spans.  Not a single one exceeds two years.  That such limited information was deemed adequate for even qualified conclusions highlights the fundamental failing of most health research: short term studies are used to make a lifetime's worth of choices.

Let's say a set of 20-somethings are given ten million dollars each.  Researchers follow their spending habits for six months.  At the study's end, researchers conclude there is no evidence unbridled spending leads to financial problems.  After all, each study participant still has money in the bank.  But if those study participants take that conclusion to heart, a two-decade study would out the short-term study's fallacy.

Healthy eating doesn't work like surgery or aspirin.  It's a long term investment.  Our favored research methods aren't structured for longterm studies.  Really, how do you judge the impact of eating organics over a lifespan when you can't control for environmental factors?  And if we do, should we wait for the results--results that will come out in time for kids born in 2080 to utilize?

Shortcoming the third is the type of medical issues the study's studies looked at.  One example given is a study finding no link between a pregnant woman's intake of organics and the incidence of "allergic conditions" among their children.  Umm, yeah, I'd expect that study to show little, if any link.  A few more dead-end studies like that, and it would certainly look like organics have no health benefits whatsoever.

What we do know is this:
Organic proteins sources (meat, eggs, dairy) have higher levels of Omega-3, essential fatty acids we need for basic cellular health.  Populations found to be deficient in Omega-3 include children with ADHD, adults suffering from chronic depression, and elderly adults with Alzheimer's.  Increasing Omega-3 intake has been linked to reversal of many chronic conditions as well.

Organic produce has a lower chemical load, both on the food and in the growing process, leading to lower chemical exposure for the entire population.  That's a positive thing since longterm research does indeed connect certain pesticides to ADHD, birth defects, and developmental delays.  We also know industrial farmers, and backyard gardeners who use chemicals, have a higher risk of Parkinson's.  I don't find this surprising, since many farming chemicals were originally derived from weaponized nerve gas.

So the study's actual conclusions are more along the lines of, "faulty research demonstrates the need for longterm studies with better parameters."

Sure, we could argue a long time about whether this study or that supports the benefits of organics, and whether or not the research showing longterm damage from chemical exposure is really-o truly-o as frightening as it seems.  But I haven't seen any controversy over exposure to agricultural chemicals improving my health; it's pretty well established those chemicals aren't curative.  Avoiding them is, then, the least controversial choice.

blairmacg: (Default)

First, a really cool article about structural changes in the brain, brought about by long-term karate training.  Researchers found that, yes, the power behind a karateka's punch isn't determined by muscular strength.  It's the synchronization of movement from trunk to fist.  The cerebellum of what researchers called "karate experts" was structurally different from novice karateka--because of that fine motor control.

That's different from muscle memory, which will permit your muscles to move without your conscious step-by-step instructions.  Developing synchronicity takes time.  Lots of time.  The average black belt participating in the research had about fourteen years of experience.

As writers, it's good to keep this in mind.  There aren't too many stories being put out today that show our protagonist becoming an way-cool-expert warrior in two weeks, thank goodness.  But there are ways to play with this knowledge.  Certainly a strong person playing Hack and Thud with a broadsword can pack a wallop.  But a weaker person with more training can deliver a blow with superior power because of the whole-body movement that has developed.  An untrained fighter has to work harder at being powerful, even if the limbs are moving in the same patterns as the trained fighter.

Alas, some martial arts instructors let their students believe he or she has achieved some magical, otherworldly power to hit harder.  We call that Sensei-Fu.  In truth, it's well-honed body mechanics.

Second, a disturbing article about the possible link between butter flavoring, commonly found in microwave popcorn and such, and Alzheimer's.  The flavoring causes proteins in the brain to form incorrectly and clump together, as they do in Alzheimer's.  As an added bonus, the flavoring crosses the blood-brain barrier and prevents the brain from ridding itself of those bad proteins.

This is one of those things I politely point out when folks tell me Substance X must be safe or it wouldn't be in our food.  In truth, short term studies are usually used to see if the substance causes cancers, hormonal disruptions, or acute poisonings.  If not, it goes on the Generally Recognized As Safe list.  There it shall stay, perfectly legal to add to all manner of products, until a large body of evidence--and the passage of many years--may demonstrate otherwise.  We are all test subjects, truly.

This substance is currently on the FDA's GRAS list with a "1" rating, meaningthe FDA determined there is no evidence to indicate it will pose a hazard.  Oh, and it's the same substance known to cause lung damage in folks who work in factories where it's used.

I'm much more understanding of the FDA's willingness to take risks with pharmaceuticals, because there is a risk-benefit analysis that should be undertaken when looking for the means of bettering and prolonging life.  But this flavoring isn't a vital nutrient or disease fighter.  It's a sales gimmick.

I have no doubt that, in the decades ahead, historians will be linking our rise in cognitive disease with the overwhelming amounts of chemicals we routinely consumed in meals and snacks.

So for heaven's sake, use real butter, and use it in moderation.  I'll take the health risks and benefits of real food over chemical make-believe any day.

blairmacg: (Default)

I've said this before, but I'm going to say it again: The time to designate your personal Health Advocate is while you are healthy.  If you wait until you are hospitalized, in pain, and under the influence of narcotics, you might not even realize you need an advocate.  Or, if you do realize it, may be unable to articulate it.  Worse, if you are unable to communicate at all, a health advocate will be determined by fate alone (it'll be your closest kin).

Your Health Advocate must possess three things:

First, intelligence.  The HA doesn't need to be a genius or hold a medical degree, but must understand how to perform quick research on your behalf, and how to utilize that research.  The HA doesn't need to know right now what BUN levels measure, but must know where to find that information.  Critical thinking skills are a must.  This person will be taking in rapidly-changing information from a variety of sources, then either advising your next-of-kin about, or making on their own, decisions that may well determine the course of your life from that point forward.

Second, confidence.  The hospital setting can be confusing, overwhelming, and intimidating--and the level of confusion and intimidation rises with the severity of the situation.  Your Health Advocate needs to be confident enough to ask questions of people who may not want to be questioned, to double check every piece of information, and to point out potential problems and inconsistencies.  He needs to be able to do so in the face of extreme displeasure from those being questioned, to walk up to and/or follow medical professionals who want to move on before answering your questions, and ask for second opinions.

Third, emotional control.  The HA can't be the one who gets flustered, who cries easily, or angers quickly.  An even keel is best.  If the HA has great confidence to ask questions, but can't keep a lid on frustration or fear, the likely result is a deeply pissed off and offended medical professional.  Civility must be maintained.  The HA should be able to ask nursing staff for what you need, and remember to smile and say thank you when it's delivered.  Along the same lines, the HA should be the one you can count on to give you a sense of control amidst frightening situations.  Keeping your stress levels low is equally important as making sure you get the right medications.

If your next of kin doesn't display those traits now, do not hope he or she will rise to the occasion in a crisis.  That's not fair to either one of you.  Let your next of kin be precisely who he or she is.  Let your HA take the other burden.  In my family situation, we all know my father wouldn't make a good HA for my mother.  He knows this.  So our family agreement is that his job would be as my mother's emotional anchor.  My sister and I would be the HA.

Research has varied over the years, but placing U.S. deaths from medical errors around 100,000 annually seems to be the general agreement.  About 1.5 million folks suffer "adverse events" from medication errors.  Your HA is there to reduce the likelihood you'll end up in those statistic pools.

First example: Over a decade ago, my mother took a nasty fall and broke her ankle. The damage was severe enough to require extensive surgery and lots of screws to hold the bones in place.  The day after her surgery, I arrived at the hospital to find her in so much pain, she was soaked in sweat and having trouble breathing.  I got a nurse who came in for about twenty seconds, and informed me my mother had maxxed out the morphine pump, and couldn't be given additional pain medication.

I found another nurse who took one look at my mother, and knew there was no way she'd be in such physical distress under a max dose of morphine.  A quick check revealed the morphine pump was malfunctioning, and hadn't delivered a single dose for hours.  That incident made the need for an advocate clear to me.

Second example: Right before my late husband was formally diagnosed with liver cancer, he was hospitalized for a heart attack triggered by uncontrolled internal bleeding.  Lab tests showed his blood wasn't clotting properly (as happens when the liver isn't producing clotting factors), and his liver and kidneys were performing really, really poorly.  So the Liver Doctor ordered a bunch of tests and some vitamins to bolster the blood until he knew what else was going on.  The Heart Doctor looked over the chart, saw 'heart attack,' and prescribed aspirin and statins. 

Yeah.  Aspirin to thin the blood and statins to further impair liver function.  Had someone not checked the med list, he may have had those medications for a week before Liver Doctor found out.  That alone could have killed him.  Liver Doctor was livid; Heart Doctor never crossed our path again.

The first example happened in a hospital considered one of the state's best.  The second happened in the VA hospital.  I point that out to make clear the facility you expect to be treated within shouldn't make a difference on whether you designate an advocate.

So now is the time.  Talk the person (or persons) you'd trust with your life.  Complete a HIPPA Authorization Form that will allow that person access to medical records for situations you determine.  Consider if you also need to complete a medical power of attorney.  It doesn't take much time or effort. 

It is totally worth it.

(This Public Service Announcement triggered by the recent hospitalization of a family member who nearly lost his colon because no one was present to effectively advocate for him.)

blairmacg: (Default)

The drought continues around here.  Officially, a corn crop loss of around 10% was being chatted up a week ago.  That's total bunk.  I'm hearing upwards of 50% from most farmers, with some concerned the entire crop will be lost.  Corn has a very small pollination window.  It's rapidly closing.  There may soon by acres and acres of earless stalks.

The commodities market has already seen a 30% price increase.  Food and fuel prices will soon follow.

Corn is a terribly inefficient crop.  Its water needs are high in proportion to the amount of grain it produces.  It sucks as a "renewable" energy source, because it needs a high amount of fossil fuels to grow and process.  It sucks worse as an "environmentally friendly" source, because of its need for chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides.  The amount of land given over to corn productions have impacted local weather patterns in much the same ways as cities.  So while it might sound cool to say we can make plastic from a "green" source, understand that fossil fuels are needed to perform all stages of agriculture, and are used to produce all the "-icides" that eventually end up in the water supply.

In our food system, corn dominates.  If you eat industrially raised meats, you eat corn.  If you eat premade foods, you eat corn.  If you eat eggs, you eat corn.  Sodas?  Corn.  Farm-raised salmon?  Corn.  Cottage cheese?  Corn.  Ice cream?  You get the idea.  Corn is, in my researched opinion, a primary cause behind the rise in Type II diabetes, neurological disorders, poor LDL levels, allergic reactions, and endocrine disorders.  Backing up that opinion would be a whole 'nother post that would likely bore everyone.

Many of these costs are hidden in other places, but farm subsidies are the most direct example.  Most years, we consumers pay less for corn than corn costs to grow.  That's why it's so pervasive, like He Who Walks Behind the Rows.

My point in relating all of that is this: If you've been looking for a good time and reason to change eating habits, now is a good time.  If you want corn, eat it when it still looks like corn.  Otherwise, find places to remove it from your diet.  If dry cornfields are going to be the new normal, it will make an increasing amount of financial sense to make the change.  If you're looking to have happy health, it's made sense for a long time.

blairmacg: (Default)
In the news today is the kind of stuff that used to frustrate me: Calcium Pills Double Heart Attack Risk. Now I do the ten minutes of research needed to find out what the study actually considered, and what the conclusion actually is.  All else is a press release that reporters don't investigate,

So here's the deal: researchers in Germany asked nearly 25,000 people to regularly fill out a form on how frequently they had consumed 148 different foods over the previous twleve months.  Then they were asked if they had taken supplements "regularly"--with regularly defined as daily use for at least a week, or five doses over four weeks.  Participants were not asked how much calcium or what form of calcium.  Eleven years later, supplement versus non-supplement death rates and causes were compared.

So...  An unknown amount of an unknown form of calcium supplements were associated with a higher risk of death from cardiac events...AND (from the study) older age, longer smoking duration, and lower education levels. 

For more than a decade, it's been well-known and well-documented that calcium carbonate--the cheapest and most common form of calcium used in supplements--does little to nothing for one's health, and can in fact lead to kidney stones, hardening of the arteries, digestive issues, and low nutrient absorption.  However, mainstream supplements, like those found on standard drug store shelves, almost all use calcium carbonate.

But other forms of calcium--like calcium citrate--can do the opposite.  Without causing kidney stones.  While strengthening bones, reducing muscle cramps, and so forth.  I have never had a client come see me whose physician had explained the difference.  I've had many clients improve bone density by switching their form of calcium.

And I'm really, really tired of medical professionals--who have no education in these matters--doing little more than relating the contents of researchers' press releases.  If the professional cannot--or sees no need to--distinguish between healthy and unhealthy form of a mineral, I know she or he isn't going to give complete and accurate information.

Is it best to get your calcium from foods?  Absolutely.  Your body will get more usable calcium from greens than from dairy, though.  Will calcium supplements kill you?  Only if you take the unhealthy ones, most likely to be found at big box stores.

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